Costa will be the Shumlin administrationís health care finance czar

April 18, 2013

VTDigger

Michael Costa has a daunting task before him, and he’s staring it down with cool confidence.

After the legislative session wraps up in mid-May, the Vermont Tax Department’s policy director will take on the job of developing the tax structure for a publicly funded health care system. In essence, Costa will become Gov. Peter Shumlin’s health care finance czar.

“He is going to be the point person on developing a finance plan for Green Mountain Care,” said Jeb Spaulding, Shumlin’s secretary of administration.

Costa will work closely with Robin Lunge, the administration’s director of health care reform, to draw up a series of revenue proposals that are slated to hit legislators’ desks in 2015.

“We’re serious,” Spaulding said. “He’s one of the people in state government that has the knowledge, the attitude and the aptitude to take this on.”

Costa’s appointment comes months after the administration released a much-anticipated financing plan for Green Mountain Care, the state’s proposed single-payer system. [1]The so-called plan called for roughly $1.6 billion in public revenue, but it lacked a key detail, namely where that revenue would come from.

Costa says that by the 2015 legislative session, the administration will demonstrate several avenues that the state could take to implementing a single-payer system and that such a system would be a financially advantageous route for the state to take.

“We know we can provide all Vermonters with quality health care and save money,” he said. “My task is to continue the work we’ve done on financing, so that we can provide a way to pay for it.”

Vermonters will need some convincing, he says.

“I think the biggest challenge is going to be getting people to earnestly listen and consider the proposals and perhaps leave their comfort zone,” he said. “I think there’s a great opportunity to offer every Vermonter quality health care and to save money.”

While Costa carries out his work for the administration, a nine-member committee [2] will conduct a similar evaluation. Two of the committee’s nine members will come from the administration, but Spaulding said Costa would not sit on that committee. The Legislature has not yet created legislation to form the committee, but House Speaker Shap Smith, Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell and other key leaders have indicated a willingness to do so, Spaulding said.

Costa was hired in 2010 as director of Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission and was charged with analyzing the state’s tax system. He has worked with government agencies in California, Massachusetts and Wisconsin, according to his official biography. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Bates College and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. Costa lives in White River Junction with his wife, Kristina Godek, is a scientist at the Dartmouth School of Medicine.